The “upper Room”, Part Two, Ἡ ΠΕΝΤΗΚΟΣΤΗ (judith Green, The Hebrew University Of Jerusalem

Tomb of David“Brothers,  I can speak confidently  to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…” Acts 2:29

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Various sites for David’s tomb were suggested by popular traditions over the ages and the one which became generally accepted was the place now called Mt. Zion.  The name “Zion” appears in the Hebrew Bible in reference to the original, ancient Jerusalem, not to the present hill of that name. But, in the Middle Ages, Byzantine pilgrims mistakenly thought that this hill, located south of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, was part of the ancient city and named it “Mount Zion.”  In fact, during the middle of the second century CE, the time of the Bar Cochba Revolt, Jerusalem was razed, Jews were banished from the area, and knowledge concerning the true location of King David’s Tomb and Mt. Zion was lost. So, the present tradition concerning the location of the tomb is only about 1,000 years old, first being recorded in Crusader times, and then accepted in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. The Spanish Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela (c. 1173), reports a story about the miraculous discovery of David’s tomb on Mt. Zion during the repairing of a church on the site. The present building housing the cenotaph was erected in 1335, but it is built on top of what is probably a second- to fourth-century building whose purpose is not known. The site passed between Muslims and Christians at various periods and came under Jewish control after 1948. It became a special center for Jewish pilgrims in the period from 1948 to 1967, because it was the only site in divided Jerusalem from which they could see the Western Wall. Jews made pilgrimages to the site on Shavuot, the traditional date of David’s death.  According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, David was born and died on the holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks which is the 50th day after Passover, the Greek “Pentecost” (πεντηκοστή = 50th).

An important note from Dr. Eli: Judith Green the author of this article is also the principle author of Biblical Greek course that is being offered now through eTeacherBiblical. To explore the possibility of taking a course in Biblical Greek, please, click HERE.

David’s Tomb today, with embroidered mantel quoting Psalm 150.

Which brings us back to the scene of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, on Shavuot, in the Upper Room.  Although everything we have said, from a historical or archaeological point of view, indicates that David was not buried there, or that the first Christian Pentecost happened there, there is another, spiritual truth in the account in Acts.  Peter’s speech to the large assembly is full of reference to King David – quoting his Psalms (16:8-11;89:3; 110:1), and interpreting them as prophecy concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus.  And all this is being said consciously in a building housing David’s tomb (see quote above, Acts 2:29).  Wherever exactly this event took place, on the Pentecost/Shavuot after the Resurrection, we can be sure that King David’s Tomb was nearby, as Peter says, in the “Lower Room”.

To explore the possibility of taking a course in Biblical Greek, please, click HERE.

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Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Faye.

    Hi Dr. Eli, van you tell me where (what bible translation or outside reference) to Peter saying the “lower room.” Thank you for the King David connection information.

    1. judith green

      Hello Faye! I meant the placement of the comma in my sentence “Wherever exactly this event took place, on the Pentecost/Shavuot after the Resurrection, we can be sure that King David’s Tomb was nearby, as Peter says, in the “Lower Room”. to refer only to Peter’s saying the tomb of David was nearby, or “among us” The “in the Lower Room” is my own comment, since this was how the tradition of this building was understood. The intriguing issue is the concentration on David and his Psalm in this description of the event, making the connection quite evident.

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  3. Ester Blomerus

    Dr Eli, considering the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus – only a mere fifty days after Pesach – the disciples of Jesus would rather have gathered elsewhere waiting upon the Lord (Acts 1.8). A room in a house where the 120 could come together seems to be a good option – therefore not the Temple courts. In my opinion, keeping the Temple as the only appropriate venue indeed ties this whole event to a Jewish perspective – which of course would have suited the Judaizers well, i.e. that it of necessity had to be part of the central worship system. With such a statement, I don’t imply that the apostles dissociated themselves from the Temple – Peter and John’s healing of the cripple man and James’ close liaison with the Temple.
    This event was then preceded by a quiet waiting upon the Lord – separating themselves and going aside. Or how would one interpret Jesus’ instruction, “Wait here to receive the promise from the Father…” (Expanded Bible), or, “…wait for the gift I told you about…” (Good News Bible). We of course don’t know how the endowment with the Holy Spirit was discussed between Jesus and His apostles and how the fulfilment of the promise was going to take place. Luke does not tell us nor any of the Gospel writers. So was it just a matter of expectancy within hearts or was it about setting time aside for prayer and dedication – seeking the face of the Lord in earnest? Isa 40.31 seems a good indication of how “wait for the gift” ensued, i.e. in the spirit of consecrating a special day of fasting and so that God’s power would be revealed (Joel).
    I like your idea of the mikveh, that there were many all over Jerusalem – I mentioned Jordan River without giving it a second thought and John the Baptist did not baptize in one place. I do think that with the 3000 in mind, seemingly all baptized on Pentecost day, does make a mikveh close-by a good option. But then, here too, Luke does not tell us everything. (Where exactly did John and Jesus’ disciples baptize?) I think the apostles’ post-resurrection baptism in the Name of Yeshua (Acts 2.38) in the Temple Courts would have been anathema to the Temple authorities (especially to Annas!). The grave of David seems a good reference then.
    The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost Day is then the salient issue and not so much where it took place. It is said that Caiaphas lived in the Essene quarters close to the Temple, also that the upper room was the place where the Last Supper had taken place. Should this be the case, a crowd of 3000 could then easily have flocked to the house where the “noisy”(!) event was taking place or they gradually, as news was spreading, assembled – proving that it must have been a spectacular event indeed!Note that Jesus did not say that they must not leave the Temple? He did command them (Acts 1.4) not to leave Jerusalem (the city): “… when they went into the city they went to the upstairs room where they were staying” (Expanded Bible) – all of them permanently staying there? (Acts 1.13). But there they continued in prayer up until the outpouring (Acts 1.14).
    Ester Blomerus

  4. Rafael

    Was it not common for an upper room to have windows or doors opening to the outside? This would provide a simple way for them to be isolated in “the upper room” of a house, then almost instantaneously in the midst of a crowd. All they needed to do is open the windows or doors, and speak. Or am I missing something?

  5. ginette kelley

    is it possible that the baptisms were conducted at the Pool of Shalom?

  6. Ester Blomerus

    Dr Eli, Thanks for drawing our attention again to David’s Tomb and to speculations on the traditional so-called “Upper Room”. I think it gives much food for thought, however, concerning the possibility of the Temple as locale where the Holy Spirit was poured out, Jesus (Yeshua) specifically assigned His disciples to a place where they would have been able to “wait upon the Lord” for a time-period. The Temple forecourt was a hub of great, ongoing activity and one can then hardly visualize it as a place of solace, or a place for separation from the general crowd. They, only 120, or plus minus this number then, would have taken Jesus’ instruction seriously, namely to wait in complete dedication for the Power from on High (Acts 1.8). I think the Jewish followers of Jesus would definitely have wanted this historical event to have been allied with the Temple whereas the Greek-speaking Jews again would rather have, I think, opted for the “Upper Room” (wherever), but I like the vicinity of David’s tomb as frame of reference. And concerning the baptismal font (Mikveh), John the Baptist, also someone with whom the Priesthood had their particular issues, baptized in Jordan River and therefore not in the Temple (again of course pointing to a probable Jewish “invention”). We are not told where the baptism of the 3000 had taken place but seeing that Jesus’ disciples were not popular with the Sanhedrin, also considering Annas’ strong influence (re Temple activity), I think a place away from the Temple sounds more convincing. We must, and I am bold now, always consider the spirit of Christendom: it was meant for all nations and it was therefore not only a Jewish thing – And would the officials have given permission to Jesus’ disciples to wait upon God for days on end, i.e. on Jesus’ word (!) , at an assigned place on the Temple premises? I think this is clearly far-fetched. News spread faster than we think in those days and the miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit could indeed then have gained momentum quickly (crowd mania/hysteria).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ester, hi and thanks for your comment. We read in Acts 2 that “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” I take it to mean that they were inside of a house. Jesus only told them “not to leave Jerusalem” while waiting for the Spirit’s coming. He did not say do not leave the Temple. Moreover so close to Jesus execution it was still very dangerous to congregate together in public. So I do not find the suggestion that they were “waiting on the Lord” in the Temple courts reasonable. Going through the water cleansing Jewish ceremony that later will be called baptism outside of Jerusalem Temple presents no problem we are not told where this happen. We only know that the numbers were large. I am not sure however how you are connecting it with “all the nations” vs. the “Jewish thing” as per your comment. This seems to be as a fully independent issue. Am missing something? Dr. Eli

  7. ginette kelley

    It was my understanding that only the disciples were in the upper room at the time of the arrival of the holy spirit, as Jesus had commanded them to meet there, It was said the great wind( Holy Spirit0 was felt and heard all over Jerusalem, it would still have been possible that they had been to the temple earlier in the morning, the Temple Mikvar was not used for baptisms but for cleansing of the Priests and high priests prior to their duties in the Holy of Holies
    Personal Mikvars were also under some homes used for cleansing purposes.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Public mikvaot were common and were spread out throughout Jerusalem.

  8. Jay Axtell

    Could the Upper Room have been in the Temple itself? 1 Kings 6:8-10 (ESV) says, “The entrance for the lowest [fn] story was on the south side of the house, and one went up by stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. So he built the house and finished it, and he made the ceiling of the house of beams and planks of cedar. He built the structure against the whole house, five cubits high, and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.” Even though this referrences Solomon’s Temple the rebuilt Temple would likely have similar demensions. It would seem to me that if this location was accessible, since the early believers met daily in the Temple and from house to house that this would be an outstanding place for the Lord to not only bring visibility to His confirmation of the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah 31, but also to baptize these obedient expecters with His Ruach while fillihg His new Temple with the Spirit as well. Margaret’s post above looks hopeful.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Jay, I think it is a mistake to think that the disciples were in the temple at this time (as Margarete suggests). According to Luke in Acts 1 there were in the upper room of some kind, there were 120 people there (symbolic number of communal significance). So when the Spirit has come down they were in that room described in Acts 1. What happens in Acts 2 of course happens on outside. Where one can not be sure, but certainly not far from the Temple courts if not inside of it. I am confident that there is a time gap (probably fairly short) between vs. 3-4. Verse 4 already picks up in the public place and not in a private secret room that the disciples were meeting behind closed doors. Time gaps are extremely common in the Bible and Gospel accounts are no exception to it.

      1. judith green

        Yes, it is clear from the Greek word καταμένοντες in Act. 1:13, that the disciples were “staying” in the upper room, not just having a meeting or meal there. They would certainly not have been sleeping in the Temple! The problem is in the first verses of ch. 2: 2:1 could be translated as “And when the day of the Pentecost is fully come, they were all in the same place.” I.e., the upper room. 2:2: “And suddenly there was a crashing sound like a violent wind blowing from heaven and it filled up the whole house where they were staying.” This is the same word, καθήμενοι, as in the first verse. There is no question about it, they are still in the upper room of a house when this event occurs. Of course, as in the illustration I provided in Part One, the audience can, and must, be outside the house. They are a crowd gathering outside.

  9. Margaret Kehoe

    I believe according to the account in Acts 2 that the Apostles were in Ha Bayit or the Temple when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Shavuot. It stands to reason that this is where they would be for the morning Sacrifice at 9 o’clock. They were Godly men keeping the Feast. Also it is where Jews from the Nations were gathered to keep the Feast. Jews from the Nations heard the Spirit speak in their own languages. Because of this therefore it was possible for 3,000 men to respond to Peter’s address and believe in Yehoshua as their Messiah and Redeemer. Also in this area there was a large Mikvah so that again 3000 could be Baptised. As a young believer I had great doubts about the traditional site and having visited Jerusalem I had to see for myself concerning what is called “The Upper Room” Whatever this room was used for it was not the place of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. You could not fit about 4-5000 people there. And anyway why would a great number of Jews from the Nations be in this place?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Margaret, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Dr. Eli